Death Billiards should be applauded for its ambition to convey a well executed and thoughtful short story in only 25 minutes. The premise is dark – two men (with a few decades between them) are basically forced to compete in a game of pool… with their lives on the line. What starts off as a cruel premise evolves into something even darker as the two men deal with the severe trauma of being forced into such a grim scenario.
As the game begins we learn about the two unrelated main characters through some brief flashbacks. The challenge of getting an audience to care about them in such a short time frame is handled well, and as the story unfolds it’s hard not to empathise with both of them. Other characters include a mysterious man and woman who act as ‘hosts’ for the event although we learn little about them. The tension in Death Billiards begins early on and builds steadily thanks to careful pacing, making for quite a gripping experience. You will find yourself invested with this story, and you will want to find out the fate of its protagonists.
The atmosphere on-screen is very well crafted thanks to slick animation and a stirring soundtrack that ebbs and flows with the visuals. The main setting is a large room in what appears to be a bar of some sort, although there are no customers to be seen, and an air of mystery permeates the ambience. Not everything here is quite as it seems. A dark colour palette is used tastefully for the interior although there are some gentle hints of brighter colours to be found inside the bar too. The sounds and sights in Death Billiards are of high quality and gel nicely creating a bleak setting – cleverly matching the plight of its main characters.
There is really not much to complain about in Death Billiards. The story evolves steadily and even delves into the theme of human mortality – yet it is careful not to overstep its margins due to time constraint. Animation and background music are very fitting. Perhaps the only gripe I have with Death Billiards is that I’d like to know more about its setting and see its characters fleshed out a little more, but these complaints are very minor. Be sure to check out Death Billiards if you feel even remotely curious. It’s not very long and you’ll probably enjoy it.
Death Billiards is one of the four anime works that each received 38 million yen (about US$480,000) from the “2012 Young Animator Training Project.” Just like in 2010 and 2011, the animation labor group received 214.5 million yen (US$2.65 million) from the Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, and it distributed most of those funds to studios who train young animators on-the-job. – myanimelist.net